I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving as much as I did, because I think it’s my favorite holiday. I’m still spending time with family, so I’m going to launch right in to this weekend’s games.
Game of the Week – West Virginia @ Pitt – Friday 12 PM, ABC
The Backyard Brawl is a big game regardless of the records of the two teams, so when the Mountaineers and Panthers face off with the Big East title very much in the balance, it’s that much more significant.
Pitt currently holds a one game lead in the BE over both West Virginia and UConn. With a Panther win and a loss by UConn to Cincinnati, Pitt would clinch the Big East title even though they have one game left next weekend. With a Panther loss, we would have a tie atop the conference between WVU and Pitt (and UConn if they were to win).
West Virginia has thrust itself back into the race for a BCS berth on the strength of their stellar 3-3-5 defense. The Mountaineers have pretty much suffocated every one of their opponents in conference to this point. Even in their two losses in the BE, they have allowed no more 19 points. If the Mountaineers lose this game, it probably won’t be because of their defense.
Pitt’s defense is pretty good in its own right, but it will be going up against a team that has a lot of weapons that don’t always work well together. Both teams are led by sophomore QB’s (Pitt’s Tino Suneri and WVU’s Geno Smith) who have had up and down campaigns. My bet is that the QB that performs better will lead his team to victory.
Games to Keep an Eye on
Cincinnati @ UConn – Saturday 12 PM, ESPN3.com
Miraculously, UConn finds itself firmly in contention for a BCS berth in spite of being outgained by an average of over 20 yards per game. The Huskies are on a three game winning streak and a game behind Pitt. The Huskies also hold the head to head tie breaker with the Panthers.
UConn isn’t the only team that will be motivated for this game, because Cincinnati still has a shot at bowl eligibility with wins in their final two games.
Facing off against the top offensive team in the Big East, there’s a pretty good chance that they will be outgained again. However, UConn should be able to move the ball against a Bearcat D that struggles, particularly against the pass. UConn, though, prefers running the ball early and often with Jordan Todman, who is playing as well as anyone in the BE during their winning streak. Cincinnati counters with Isaiah Pead at running back, who is playing quite well in his own right.
Louisville @ Rutgers – Friday 11 AM, ESPN2
What a terrible time to play a football game. If I tried to any sort of physical competition at 11 AM on the day after Thanksgiving, I would be playing at about 10 pounds above my normal playing weight.
This is the last stand for both of these teams on their quests for bowl eligibility. UofL has been stuck at five wins for what seems like a month now. This is their last game of the season and if they lose, Charlie Strong’s successful first season will not end the way that it feels like it should. Rutgers, on the other hand, needs to win its final two games to get to six wins.
On the heels of facing one of the top teams in the nation in West Virginia, Rutgers has to be quite the welcome opponent. They are fresh off of allowing 69 points to Cincinnati and with Bilal Powell reportedly close to 100%, Louisville figures to be cured of many of its offensive woes, although UofL still has backup Justin Burke at QB.
Boston College @ Syracuse – Saturday 12 PM, ESPN
Syracuse is safely bowl eligible at 7-4, but a win here would make them a stronger candidate for a better bowl. They will be facing a team that has pieced together a four game winning streak to get to 6-5. BC is not the best offensive squad, but they do an excellent job against the run, allowing under 80 yards per game. Running the ball is a big part of what the Orange try to do and Delone Carter will face one of his tougher challenges of the year.
South Florida @ Miami – Saturday 12 PM, ESPNU
Both South Florida and Miami are coming off of games that effectively ended their conference title hopes. Miami has all kinds of offensive talent, but turnovers have plagued them regardless of whether Jacory Harris or current starter Stephen Morris has been under center. The Miami defense struggles mightily against the run, allowing over 170 yards per game. Moise Plancher and USF will look to exploit that.